Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Memorial day afternoon I had a guest over for a visit and as our conversation ran into dinnertime I rattled my brain to think up a quick, light, but delicious meal to prepare. Naturally I was drawn to one of my favorite quick meals, one I enjoy often whether alone or feeding guests. Food researchers have learned that people rotate ten meals over the course of a week, but the same ten meals week after week. I enjoy a much more varied rotation of meals, however this one particular dish works for me regardless of whether it is a snowy winter day or a spring evening. Just one of those things I guess, where the flavors come together in such a way that they leave a lingering memory on my tongue.
The sauce is easy and simple to make and I can vary the greens that I use and sometimes the noodles, although I prefer the Japanese noodles, either the soba or udon varieties.
1 2-ounce tin flat anchovies in olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil
Now, what I’ve learned, albeit the hard way, is not, repeat not, to drop the anchovies into a hot skillet of oil. This will only produce an angry dance of boiling oil as the anchovies release any moisture they still have. I even bought an oil splatter devise to cut down on the inevitable coating of anchovy oil raining onto my stovetop and, really, anything within a foot of the skillet. Then one day, for no other reason than to try and avoid the oil splatter, and because my splatter device had gone missing, I placed the anchovies, their oil, the garlic and the olive oil in a small iron skillet and brought it up to heat slowly. Well, low and behold, not a splatter or sputter. The oil heated to a boil, the anchovies dissolved and the garlic cooked to perfection. Hallelujah!
As for the noodles, I prefer the spelt soba noodles made by Eden Foods. To cook them I bring a pot of water to a boil, add a teaspoon of sea salt, then break the noodles in half as I add them to the boiling water, stirring well to separate the noodles. I realize that this may be a sacrilege amongst connoisseurs of noodle cooking, but it gives me the length of noodle I like to eat without having to do a lot of noodle slurping through pursed lips. I also add a variety of fresh greens to the pot with the noodles. This can consist of a few handfuls of either spinach, Swiss chard, dandelion greens, kale or broccoli florets. Once everything is submerged in the water I bring it back up to almost a boil, cover the pot, turn off the heat and let it all sit tight for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, I get the anchovy sauce heating, so that everything is ready once I drain the pasta and place it in a big bowl.
At this point you can do one of a few things. If I am in the Transition Phase of the Cleanse then I will pour the anchovy sauce over the pasta and greens, toss well and serve. Other times I might grate some Romano sheep’s cheese over the noodles or toss in some soft goats Chevre cheese to melt and coat the noodles. Any one of the three suggestions work well and with a side of fresh, grilled asparagus and a salad of garden arugula, fennel, and toasted walnuts my meal is complete, all within a matter of 20 minutes or less.
This past month I traveled out of the country to Morocco. I was there to experience a retreat site for possibly bringing yoga groups for vacation. I am a seasoned traveler, but it is always an inconvenience to travel knowing that the world at large does not follow the same standard of diet that I do. Putting aside any hopes that the world had changed since I last wandered an airport or ate an airlines prepared meal, I made sure to pack an assortment of foods to ensure I had what I needed for the week to come.
At home my morning breakfast is a smoothie made with a combination of unsweetened hemp milk or water, hemp seed protein powder, flax meal, psyllium husk powder, a green powder, half a banana, frozen blueberries and stevia powder to make it taste just right. I prefer a sweet taste in the morning and this drink satisfies that craving along with my nutritional needs for the next 3-4 hours. Given that my body is conditioned to have this fiber rich, nutrient dense meal I made sure to bring along a variation of these ingredients in package or capsule form. Once at the retreat site I was able to juice ripe Moroccan oranges from the tree outside my window, and combine this with my greens, fiber and a banana. Needless to say I was soon sharing my morning smoothies with a few of the other yogis present. So breakfast was taken care of, but what about my other meals?
On this trip I was gratefully surprised to find that much of the Moroccan diet consists of vegetables and salads, small amounts of lamb, chicken, fish or beef, and homemade bread dipped in locally grown olive oil. As a matter of fact for breakfast I had watched the cook prepare the morning bread, much like an Indian naan flat bread, and serve it with oil cured black olives, butter, orange marmalade and Moroccan mint tea. Being a morning smoothie kind of gal, this proved a bit heavy and oily for me, but one should note that this is a typical morning meal for many cultures around the world. Bread, butter or oil, coffee, tea, milk, and sugar. Not exactly a king size meal, but one to begin the day and hold the appetite until lunch was served around 3:00 in the afternoon.
Yes, you are correct in thinking that I wished I had eaten a large helping of bread and olives to get me to the next meal. Those first few days were good for detoxifying, however, I had also brought along a few packages of sprouted raw foods crackers for snacks. Once in Morocco I was able to purchase some fresh dates and walnuts at the local market. These I snacked on until the afternoon meal was served. Just note that although you may bring along enough food for yourself, no one else will have thought to do the same and before long you will be handing out your precious cargo to the hungry hordes. Make sure to bring enough to share or accept that your supply of goodies won’t last but a few days.
The afternoon meal consisted of a mountain of steamed cous cous topped with boiled vegetables served with a herb and spice infused sauce on the side. Other times the traditional Moroccan tagine was served. This arrived at the table in a well-used shallow earthenware dish topped with a pyramid shaped dome. When lifted a cloud of steam revealed an assortment of vegetables cooked simply with water, a splash of olive oil and spices. This was very delicious served over rice or pasta along with a fresh tomato salad tossed with lemon and olive oil. Water was the beverage of choice pumped from a well dug 40 meters deep. We ate with six people sitting at a low round table and digging into the large bowl of food with hands, forks and spoons. Eating this way, as a group, added to the enjoyment of the meal.
The afternoon siesta followed, which is traditional for many of the Mediterranean countries. Stores close, people settle down to rest and let the heat of the day pass them by. Four o’clock the sun is softer on the eyes and the heat begins to retreat for the night, making it comfortable to emerge from the cool shadows of the house and return to the fields to gather wheat, herd the sheep, continue construction or pass the time sitting on the side of the road watching the occasional car go by. Once night had fallen the dinner preparations began and we gathered around the low table to eat warm bowls of vegetables, fish, salad and a denser version of the mornings bread. Dessert was always a large bowl of fruit placed in the center of the table and someone would peel a fat, thick skinned orange, split it into six pieces and pass them around the table. It was just enough and nothing more was needed.